Monday, October 31, 2016

The FBI, Comey, and Poison Letters


Emails, emails, emails … emails ad nauseam. The latest email fiasco smells to high heaven.

Just days before the election, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter with very little detail and facts to members of Congress that seemed to be related to Hillary Clinton's controversial use of a private email server as U.S. Secretary of State. The letter was so sketchy that nothing significant was revealed.

Apparently, these emails were discovered as part of an investigation into former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, who is suspected of having sexually charged communications with a 15-year-old girl. Investigators discovered the emails while looking into devices used by Weiner. Weiner is married to – and currently separated from – longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who had access to the same device or devices. The link to Clinton is evidently second-hand at best.

The FBI obtained a warrant to begin a review of the emails. The Wall Street Journal reported that there may be as many as 650,000 emails on the laptop, but it is unclear how many may be relevant to the Clinton email server investigation. This makes many wonder why Comey would reveal information about such a voluminous amount of communication that he thinks requires review at this particular time.


Pure Speculation

First of all, no one knows if anything in these emails is pertinent to Clinton's use of a private server during her time as Secretary of State, and no one knows whether any classified information could have any bearing on previous investigations. It appears that Comey sent the letter without knowing if any of the emails were marked “classified” or if they were duplicates of those already in the FBI’s possession. Speculation without detail is very troubling.

Comey could not even put a timetable on how long it will take to review the new material. Officials believe such a task could not be completed before election day.

Although Comey said he believed it was important to send the letter “in light of my previous testimony,” a bipartisan group of nearly 100 former federal prosecutors and senior Department of Justice officials, including former Attorney General Eric Holder, have signed a letter saying they were "astonished" and "perplexed" by Comey's decision.

The authors of the letter said they were "moved" to speak out publicly because Comey's action violated "settled" DOJ tenets. Justice Department officials are instructed to refrain from commenting publicly on pending investigations except in "exceptional circumstances," as well as to "exercise heightened restraint near the time of a primary or general election," said the letter.

(Pierre Thomas. “Former Attorney General Holder and Other Former DOJ Officials Pen Letter Criticizing Comey.” ABC News. October 30, 2016.)

Attorney General Loretta Lynch objected to Comey's decision to notify Congress that the FBI was reviewint the newly discovered email. Lynch based her objection on a long-held Justice Department policy that federal authorities should not take any action that may interfere with an election.

(Kevin Johnson and Richard Wolf. “Attorney General Lynch objected to FBI director going public with email review.” USA Today. October 29, 2016.)

Of course, Clinton campaign officials urged Comey to provide more details since the letter is fueling conspiracy theories that could hurt Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Comey that said his disclosure to Congress, made 11 days before the election, might have violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits partisan politicking by government employees.

“Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another,” Reid wrote.

(Mike DeBonis. “Harry Reid says Comey ‘may have broken the law’ by disclosing new Clinton-related emails. The Washington Post. October 30, 2016.)

Georgetown University law professor David Vladeck said, “I do not think he has committed a crime.” But, he said, “I do think he has abused his office.”

“Prosecutors have no warrant to characterize the behavior of someone not charged with a crime,” Vladeck said. “And it is grossly inappropriate for a prosecutor to fan political flames when there is no basis to even suggest any unlawful conduct.”

Deja Vu All Over Again 
Didn't the FBI already clear Clinton of charges about the private server? In July, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she would follow Comey’s recommendation not to pursue charges regarding Clinton’s private e-mail server. Then, Comey said that 110 e-mails sent to or from the server contained classified information but “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges in this scenario.

Now, as many Americans determine for whom to cast their votes, Comey claims he needs to “supplement” his previous testimony. In the meantime, all of this new, vague complication once more has Clinton's opposition calling for complete transparency and insisting on the need to know the truth. In all fairness, the pertinence of these Weiner emails to any criminal conduct by Clinton may be nil. Why the FBI would choose to act without proper cause is even more disturbing than whatever content may be contained in the questionable emails.

The truth? The truth is that Comey's letter has already damaged the Clinton campaign. And, the truth is that presently the emails have absolutely no “pertinence” whatsoever to Clinton's investigation.” In his letter to Congress, Comey admitted “the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.” The biggest truth is that Comey's lack of proper assessment and his poor judgment could negatively influence what many are calling the most important election in their lifetime. The political implications reek of manipulation and improper influence.

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